Alixa Sharkey

Alexi Sharkey (Undergo Society of Kenya - USK): Alexi graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2007 with degrees in Political Science and French. She then spent a year in Yenta, Shandong Province, China, teaching Global Issues and English language courses. Alixa has also undertaken projects with immigrant youths in Lexington, Kentucky and interned for the Conceal General du Calvados in France. At the time of her fellowship Alexi was a graduate student at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego with a focus in International Politics. After her fellowship, Alexi wrote: “One day I was really grumpy during one of the training sessions, when one of the students came in and you could just tell he was so happy. So I asked him, 'Elias, you seem really happy, why are you so happy?' And he replied, 'because I am here and I am learning to bog.' And then I couldn't help but be happy as well...For now all I will say, with confidence, is that I am a much more patient person.”

Digital Storytelling Project

20 Jul

It has been a busy couple of weeks getting the Digital Storytelling Project (DSP) back up and running. The relaunching event was a success with 30 attendees, both former DSP students and prospective students from several Street Associations. The prospective students had been selected by their respective Street Associations as representatives for their groups. After last years participants gave accounts of their personal experiences with the project, we had a brainstorming activity allowing both old and new students to think about how drug abuse, police harassment, environmental degradation, and other issues affect their lives. People were a bit surprised to find that even though they come from different parts of town and live in separated communities, they are dealing with the same issues on a daily basis.

Members of various Street Associations discuss the major issues and obstacles affecting their lives.

Members of various Street Associations discuss the major issues and obstacles affecting their lives.

We had the difficult task of selected seven students to participate in DSP this year from the 20 or so prospective students who attended the event. Although almost all the attendees will be included in one way or another, due to lack of funding we can only train a limited number. In the end, with the help of Martin and Joseph as well as input from various Undugu employees, we decided on three female and four male students.

I find that I sometimes forget the true purpose of this project due to the number challenges we encounter. I am constantly thinking about the questions that still have to be answered. Is there currently enough funding? (no) Will this project survive after Barbara and I leave? (I hope so) Why did we arrive to this meeting on time when we knew full-well that the others would be more than an hour late? (who knows….) and so on. However, all those concerns were lifted, at least temporarily, this past week when we went to visit the chosen students again in their communities. This time we brought cameras along with us and gave each student the task of taking the pictures necessary to tell their stories and introduce their future blog followers to their daily lives. They were simply thrilled to be using this equipment.

It was a joy to see these 18-22 year olds act almost like little kids with new Christmas presents. They were so eager to learn how to use the equipment. At one point a student was trying to take a picture of her family, however she could not fit them all into the frame. So, I showed her that by rotating the camera she could fit them all into a vertical shot. She was so excited by this! Soon, Barbara and I found ourselves being pulled along to various parts of the slum to take photos of where they lived, where they worked, where they hung out, their friends, their families…We not only had the three students from that area with us, but various members of their Street Associations tagged along as well. It was great to see that the knowledge we had shared with the three was quickly being passed along to the others as well.

One of DSP's new students practices using a camera.

One of DSP's new students practices using a camera.

The only real difficulty we experienced was trying to stay out of the pictures ourselves. They all wanted to include both me and Barbara in their photos. We found ourselves repeatedly explaining that the point was to show their daily lives in their photos, and that we are not part of their daily lives. Even so, there are several pictures of us next to goats, holding cups of porridge, standing in corners, holding peoples babies…

I think both Barbara and I were completely re-energized by this experience. And DSP is off to a good new start. Several of last years participants have posted new material to their blogs and on Saturday the new students had their first more formal lesson on picture taking and blog writing. Their “homework assignment” for next week is to write out their first blog by hand. It is a really exciting time for the Digital Storytelling Project and I cannot help but share in the students’ joy. They are so eager to change the negative stereotypes which in many ways alienate them from the rest of society, and to bring awareness to the many injustices they as well as their communities face.

Unfortunately, I am a bit of a distraction when students are taking photos.

Unfortunately, I am a bit of a distraction when students are taking photos.

Posted By Alixa Sharkey

Posted Jul 20th, 2009

1 Comment

  • Kristina Rosinsky

    July 20, 2009


    This is so exciting!! So glad you were able to get it back up and running even with all the challenges that you face.

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